Neighbourhood Watch Bill polarises Rivers State House of Assembly, activists


There was a sharp division among members of the Rivers State House of Assembly on the possibility of officials of the proposed Neighborhood Watch to carry arms.

The argument followed the passing into law of the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities Prohibition (No. 1) Bill, Rivers State Kidnap Prohibition Bill and Rivers State Neighborhood Safety Corps Bill.

During plenary, representative of Port Harcourt Constituency 1, Victoria Nyeche and representative of Khana Constituency 2, Friday Nkeah, argued that it would be wrong to empower local security men to carry arms.

Nyeche added that the Neighborhood Watch should not be allowed to arrest persons, adding that the Police should be informed and allowed to operate, if there was any crime.

Leader of the House, Martins Amaewhule and representative of Khana Constituency 1, Barine Deeyah, said the proposed security outfil should bear arms for self-defence.

They had debated in favour of life imprisonment rather than death penalty, for those indicted for secret cult activities. It was a unanimously decision.

Lawmakers also called for the amendment of the punishment proposed for anyone whose property is used by cultists and kidnappers.

Majority of the lawmakers called for death penalty for anyone found guilty of kidnapping, to serve as a deterrent to those who may want to join the venture.

Speaker of the House, Ikuinyi Owaji-Ibani, said: “From the result of votes, therefore, the House has passed the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities Prohibition Amendment (No 1) 2018 HSC into law

However, the International Society for Social Justice and Human Rights (ISSJHR) has kicked against the proposed neighbourhood policing, arguing that it would escalate crime in the state.

Governor Nyesom Wike had forwarded a bill seeking to establish a state security outfit to the state House of Assembly and allocated N20 billion for the body in the 2018 appropriation bill.